February 9, 2012

Bloomberg moves to cut library funding…again


Mike Kelley of Library Journal has broken down the figures on the proposed library cuts by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and they’re grim figures to be sure. They are made more grim however, by the strategy Bloomberg could be implementing. Kelley breaks down the cuts thus:

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented a $68.7 billion preliminary FY12-13 budget on February 2 that, as usual, proposes Draconian cuts for the city’s three library systems.

Bloomberg’s budget has almost no chance of passing through the City Council without significant adjustments, but it proposes a total cut of $96.4 million:

• Queens Borough Public Library, cut $26.7 million;

• Brooklyn Public Library, cut $26.9 million;

• New York Public Library, cut $36.0 million;

• NYPL’s four research libraries, cut $6.8 million.

Joanne King of the Queens library system explained to Library Journal just what these cuts would mean:

“It would mean library closures in every community, most other libraries open only two or three days a week and widespread layoffs,” said Joanne King, a spokersperson for the Queens system. “We will be working with elected officials at all levels of City Hall to have the proposal restored,” she said.

In other words: widespread closures of libraries, massive layoffs and extreme curtailing of remaining libraries’ services. It’s obviously too much. In fact, it nearly replicates the proposal Bloomberg fought for last year and only revised after it met with large-scale protest. The revised plan essentially created a situation of “flat funding” as Kelley calls it in his article.

There is no doubt that the NYPL will gear up to protest these cuts once again, but the question that comes to our mind is whether Bloomberg isn’t just implementing a shock strategy. This is to say that the Mayor is proposing an astoundingly harsh program of cuts in order to win some middle ground that would have been protested anyway. It’s a hard battle and any concessions Bloomberg will seem magnanimous compared to the ludicrous initial proposal. Either way, expect a bitter fight to soften the losses.


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.